Commentary

Disciples


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 68] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Thursday, March 12, 1891

     5:40 P.M. This is a good hour to see W. If he is bright at all, it is now, after the dinner. He denies that his appetite has failed, though he eats less. He says it is a measure of caution. He looked so much improved, I asked if the powders had not helped him; but he only shook his head. "No, no, I am still as slow, sluggish, congested, as I was," which is certainly not borne out externally. I had brought him six pages made up, and this seemed to please him—saying he had not expected so many. We discussed some of the details of the book. Myrick will make up the rest of the pages tomorrow. I had questions to ask W. and write Myrick at once. Two of the poems, though in type, W. will lay aside—"Ship Ahoy" and "Death's Valley." Why? The first is in the hands of Youth's Companion, unprinted, and the other in Harper's, unused— "and both are paid for." W. adding, "It is a point of honor. I do not see how I can put them in except I ask

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 69] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
their permission, and I would not do that. I had them put in type because I wished to have them ready in case either appeared while we were working on the book."
I had an indistinct feeling that he had told me long ago that Harper's had rejected that poem. "If I did, it was by mistake—they took it and paid for it. Yes, it was for the Inness picture—and they have had it nearly two years—the matter of that. They refused six or seven but took that." Said he had received copy of Truth today "with message in it from young Stoddart." Gave to me. It had not attracted him. He insisted that the poem there printed from Tennyson as new "is very old—I have read it many times." As to the full-figure spidery picture of Tennyson (in color), "It is the worst I have ever seen—no man has a body like that. I have seen plenty of specimens of spidery men. They are many in Washington—come up from the South—but never one as spidery as that. I have no doubt it is bogus—as to me it certainly is worthless." Told him substance of letter I had from Johnston today:
New York, Mar. 11, 1891

Dear Traubel:

May says "why of course they can both come to our house as well as not." So—that is settled. That's what a big house is for. If we cannot enjoy it in this way, I shall move that we move into a smaller one mighty quick.

I know nothing about who the benefit is for. We returned from Florida last Saturday (gone 3 weeks). On the train from Baltimore I found Stedman & his wife—he had been to B[altimore] to lecture as you probably know. He said he put in some big licks for Walt. He thinks he sees great falling off in vigor and continuity in Walt's article in Lippincott. And I guess he's right. It's no wonder—the wonder is that Walt does so much and so well with all his disabilities.

Your article certainly fulfills all the promise you made for it, and will hold its own in Whitman Literature.

Excuse great haste,

Yours sincerely

J. H. Johnston
Love to Walt.




- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 70] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Did not wish to show it to him. He inquired more particularly as to Stedman lecture. "As would appear from that he has delivered at least one. But I am surprised if that be so. Why not a word in the papers—and if it's expected they would be black with headlines of it. Tell me that again—what was it Johnston said about the licks?" I repeated and he exclaimed, "Good fellow! Thanks! Thanks!" And again, "I am whetted to see more what he says. But I suppose they will in the end be printed authoritatively—that will be our chance." Read aloud letter to him I had from Baker:
New York, March 11th 1891

My dear Traubel:

No, you never intimated anything—I was only lamenting to myself my own limitations, and wishing that I had something to do with the Press Lecture, so that I might invite you to come and go with me.

But it is not certain even that I shall be at the lecture. I have heard it twice, and, in addition, helped the Colonel in getting it together—that is, it was all dictated to me, so that I know it almost by heart. He gave it in Albany last Sunday night—to get it oiled for easy delivery on the 22d, before a metropolitan audience.

I do hope you will come on. The Colonel has privately printed copies—that is, he has had it printed for himself—but he has given out no copies to anybody. It is a great utterance. No one, it seems to me, could enter more intimately into the arcana of Shakespeare's heart, soul and brain than does the Colonel. I do not know, today, a more competent exponent of the great poet and dramatist.

I am, as always, in a hurry—on the dead run. When will the day of leisure dawn?

Yours always,

Baker


It took him by storm and he said, "It must be true! It must be true! And you'd better go over boy—you will not regret it—nights like that are worth paying for."

     Reeder wants to come over—take the room by flash light. W. said, "Do as you choose. I am willing, but I would advise against it—it will do no good—he will not get it." And laughingly to

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 71] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
my insistence that we might try, "Yes, try, but this den does not lend itself that way. It is like 'Leaves of Grass' itself. You can no more catch it than this twilight—these mists of the closing day." But perhaps the outlet to it? He laughed, "I see you are determined. I admit, 'Leaves of Grass' is less accomplishment than preparation."

     W. gave me three letters from Bucke, "for your collection," he said. "They will have an interest for you, especially that of the 10th" [containing news of Canadian elections].

     Repeating to W. a story about Ingersoll, printed in Truth (he had not seen it), he laughed heartily, "I don't know how near true it is, but it sounds like the Colonel, however it may miss him in fact." W. laughingly said, "The sunset poem which you fellows like so much was one of the poems declined by the Harper's. So you see you are not right after all."

     I received letter from Kimball to this effect:
Treasury Department, Office of the
General Superintendent
Life-Saving Service
Washington, D.C. March 10, 1891

My dear Sir:

Your note of the 28th ultimo, inquiring whether I can furnish you with a full set of the reports compiled and written by Mr. O'Connor during his service in this office, is received.

In reply it is perhaps proper for me to say, in the first instance, that none of the reports of the Life-Saving Service were "compiled and written" by Mr. O'Connor in any proper sense of the term. The editing of the reports, including the discussion of methods and plans, the review of the transactions of the year, the making of recommendations, etc., I have always personally attended to; and although there are, in this part of the work, some forms of expression suggested by Mr. O'Connor as I dictated the matter, (according to a custom enforced upon me by a nervous difficulty in using a pen, which has afflicted me for many years,) and an occasional idea adopted after consultation as to the treatment of the topic, there is scarcely a thought that is not entirely my own.


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 72] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
There are, however, certain portions of the reports that should be properly credited to Mr. O'Connor, and these possess great literary merit. They include nearly all of the narratives comprised under the captions "Loss of Life" and "Award of Medals," and those of the more important disasters appearing under the title "Services of Crews." A few of the accounts under the captions mentioned were written by Lieutenant Walker and others. Those of Mr. O'Connor are, I presume, what you propose to republish.

In this undertaking I tender you my cordial cooperation; indeed Mrs. O'Connor will inform you that I first suggested the idea to her, and I have been trying to find an opportunity to pick out from the reports the proper parts, as I then promised to do; but pressure of current work, together with the preparation of two annual reports now in hand, and the increased burden of my labors incident to Mr. O'Connor's sickness and to the many changes in the personnel of my office, have made it, so far, impossible of accomplishment. My evening hours at home have been about as fully occupied with official labors as my days at the Department. Now that Congress, the presence of which always complicates our work, has adjourned, and my office is gradually approaching a settled condition, I hope soon to be able to redeem my promise.

I wish, if it were possible, that you could visit Washington at an early day, as I do not see how your task can be properly and satisfactorily initiated without my personal aid.

Again assuring you of my hearty sympathy with the enterprise, and expressing the sincere hope that it may be a fortunate one for yourself and for Mrs. O'Connor, in whose welfare I shall always take an earnest interest, I am,

Yours sincerely,

S. I. Kimball

P. S. It just now occurs to me that possibly there may be an objection of law or propriety to the project, or at least to my being concerned in it. I hardly think there can be but perhaps out of abundant caution, we had better ascertain about it, which may be done when you come.

I said to W., "That is the worth of officialdom. You see, I hit him on his honor when I spoke of O'Connor's reports." This made W. laugh and he said, "I have no doubt that is true, but it is all bosh.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - [Begin page 73] - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
They were O'Connor's reports—of course they were, and he knows it."
I left it with W. to examine. Did he think the fellow would put difficulties in our way? "He might—it looks a little that way. But we must not anticipate them."


Comments?

Published Works | In Whitman's Hand | Life & Letters | Commentary | Resources | Pictures & Sound

Support the Archive | About the Archive

Distributed under a Creative Commons License. Ed Folsom & Kenneth M. Price, editors.